Broncos odds and ends

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Denver quarterback Jay Cutler told reporters Monday, a day after the Broncos lost in San Diego to complete their three-week collapse in the AFC West, that he expects Denver to end a three-year playoff drought next season.

"Yes, I do. I think with (head coach) Mike (Shanahan) and the front office, they are going to make some moves and try to improve us as a whole team," Cutler said. "I love the direction the offense is going with Jeremy (Bates) leading us, the coaching, the offensive line and the receivers. I think we have a real chance next year."

The Broncos need to make some defensive improvements. But the team has to get over the hangover from their collapse first.

The letdown did have a silver lining for Denver. It is now picking 12th in the April draft. It is the same slot in which Denver drafted star left tackle Ryan Clady earlier this year.

Denver will look at defense next spring with linebackers Rey Maualuga (USC) and James Laurinaitis (Ohio State), defensive tackle B.J. Raji (Boston College) and safety Taylor Mays (USC) as early possibilities.

Denver signed the following six practice squad players to future contracts: defensive tackle Matthias Askew, guard Mitch Erickson, wide receiver Jayson Foster, defensive tackle Ryan McBean, cornerback Rashod Moulton and wide receiver Matt Willis.

Here are Denver's home and away opponents for 2009. The dates will be announced in the spring:

Home: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants.

Away: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins.